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Grant number: FT-229907-15

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Kim Todt
University of Louisiana, Lafayette (Lafayette, LA 70503-2014)

Manuals for Merchants: The Use of Vade Mecums in Early America

Summer research and writing on Economic and U.S. History.

Early America quickly became a place with opportunities for aspiring and established merchants. But how did merchants learn to become merchants? The traditional path to becoming a merchant often saw a child or young man enter into an apprenticeship for a term of years. Private instruction was available to the aspiring merchant as well. Not every merchant, or those who aspired to become one, could afford formal instruction. A new form of self-instruction was introduced into early America from Europe. For many centuries, merchants carried vade mecums, or small manuals, along unfamiliar roads to distant places to assist them with transacting trade. This project will examine the use of these didactic handbooks by merchants trading in early America during the era of merchant capitalism. Historians, who have previously examined various means of merchant education, have largely ignored commercial manuals and the particular knowledge they conveyed.

Project fields:
Economic History; U.S. History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2015 – 7/31/2015